Anatomy Of An Anita Answer Column, Pt 1.5

When Bad Things Happen To Good Columnists

Last time, I promised to tell you how I choose questions to answer from the ever-growing file of potential questions, which is now close to 800 again. I apologize for the delay in getting to Part 2. I had a rather lengthy entry written and was ready to go with it. Then something happened a couple of weeks ago that made me rethink what I had written, so I went back and rewrote it. I was just about to submit the second version for publishing, when the same “something” happened yet again last week, so here I am rewriting this for the third time.

I beg for your indulgence as I try to be uncharacteristically serious for a minute. In the almost-five years that I’ve been writing the Anita Answer column, I have only gotten six unpleasant e-mails from people who were unhappy with me for not answering their questions. I received two of the six within two days of each other earlier this month, and then a third one arrived this week. Maybe it was the full moon, the weather, or maybe it’s the time of year. April seems to make people restless, for some reason still unknown to me. There’s probably a scientific or psychological explanation, but as I said, I don’t know what that is.

Anyway, back on point. I guess when you think of how many thousands of e-mails I’ve received over the years, six unpleasant messages is a rather small percentage. Still, they threw me a bit off-balance, because I like to think I have a good relationship with the site’s readers, for whom I try to perform a service, and particularly because I received those three complaints so close together after all this time. It made me stop and wonder if I really had been doing something wrong. The vast (and I do mean vast) majority of people who write to me are absolutely delightful, so why were these three e-mails bothering me so much? Once I had recovered my equilibrium again, I thought it might be helpful to me and to you readers to write about it, and to share the thoughts those e-mails provoked for me.

First, you should know that I don’t get paid to do this. In fact, no one on the AllEars® team gets paid for what they do. The team puts a tremendous amount of work into this website, including a lot of love and pride, too. We strive to provide up-to-date information, and we don’t deal in the Rumor Mill much. Well, I do, but I always make sure it’s clear I’m talking about a rumor. We want our readers to be able to trust what they read here, so we take a lot of time and care before publishing information.

I wouldn’t try to speak for anyone else on the team, but I love what I do here, and I suspect they do also, or we wouldn’t do it. Some of us have been friends since dirt was new, and some are new friends, but we all have this in common: We all love the Disney parks and resorts, and we all love bringing a small piece of that into your world each week. I suspect that not many people know what a gargantuan task this actually is. It requires hours and hours to research, write and maintain this site, its newsletter and the Ears To Ears forum. It doesn’t all happen by magic, much as we sometimes wish it did.

Keep in mind that all of us have other full time jobs, families, pets and homes that need our time and attention too. Perhaps knowing all of this is why receiving those impatient and unpleasant e-mails so close together threw me.

The last of the three emails I received was the one that bothered me the most. It accused me of constantly writing about myself and of publishing irrelevant questions and answers. I personally invest a great deal of my spare time in researching and writing my column. I write from my own experiences and frame of reference. How else could I write the column? Short answer: I couldn’t. Readers ask my advice and I give it, based on what I know. That’s what the column is all about.

This is what I do, and there is no way I could do it without talking about my own experiences. This is what gives my column a personal touch, isn’t it?

Other people don’t want advice, but they want to know something about Disney history, something they remember from childhood, or a rumor they heard. I like to write about those things too, because they interest me. If they didn’t interest me, why would I want to spend time researching and writing about them?

That leads me directly to the question, “Do I write about irrelevant subjects?” Well…What’s irrelevant to Reader A is quite relevant to Reader B, and may spark even more questions or tips from Readers C and D. If every question I answered was about refillable mugs, the dining plan and what time the 3:00 parade was, how very dull would that column be? I wouldn’t want to read it let alone write it. I can only hope that the majority of my readers agree, or else I’m just spinning my wheels here.

After reaching that conclusion, it led me to this thought. Before he died, my dad used to tell me all the time, “If it isn’t fun anymore, don’t do it. Life’s too short.” I’ve always tried to take that simple advice, and so those three e-mails had me wondering if writing this column was still a fun and fulfilling for me to do. It took me all of about 30 seconds of pondering to answer, “Yep. Definitely still fun!” For this reason, I’ll continue writing my column just as I’ve written it for the last five years, and I’ll do it until it’s no longer fun. I write my column because it makes me happy to write about my favorite subjects, and if it helps somebody have a better vacation or experience, that’s icing on the Mystical Cake. [Sorry, inside joke, too hard to explain. Just go with it…]

Well, as usual, I’ve digressed and used far too many words to convey a simple sentiment, which is this: Dear readers, try to take a little advice from me and my dad when you’re planning your Disney vacation. If it isn’t fun, don’t do it. Take a step back, take a deep breath, examine what the problem is, and then take another route.

Always remember that we’re talking about going to a fun place–A place where adults and kids alike can have a great time, but not if it becomes a stressful experience. It’s a vacation, after all, not a death march. Don’t fret and obsess over your planning to the point it makes you irritable and unhappy. Be flexible, be patient, and by all means, when you come to this site for help with your planning, please be respectful and polite when you ask. Behind the screen sits a team of truly great people, and we really do like to help you have a better time on your trip, or to bring you the latest Disney news and advice when that next trip seems to be too far away to bear.

OK, enough of this serious stuff. Next time I promise I’ll really tell you about how I choose my questions–Really!


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